Up to the Challenge

    Dr. Barrett Kennedy and Peggy Reily, like many Louisiana natives, are products of their community and its traditions. Born and raised in New Orleans, they grew up in families with a strong commitment to community service. As part of their upbringing, and through their experiences as kayakers and outdoor enthusiasts, they developed a lifelong love for Louisiana’s cultural and natural heritage, a passion they have lived out through community service. Now, Kennedy and Reily hope to give LSU students a chance to find their own passions through service.

    Their intended gift to LSU’s Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership will establish an endowment fund that will annually generate income for CCELL, but the donation comes with a challenge: it will be provided only if a matching $20,000 is raised by the end of 2013.

    “Our donation is to support CCELL, but we also see it as directly going to the community,” Kennedy shared, continuing, “We expect it to pay dividends. It’s an investment in developing student citizens through the experience of service to Louisiana communities. We also hope that students will develop a stronger connection to Louisiana through their service-learning projects—a deep and enduring connection that compels them to be a force of positive change in Louisiana after graduation. They are the future, the state needs them, and our communities will grow and prosper through their best efforts.”

    With educational backgrounds in architecture and heritage conservation (Kennedy) and forest and plant ecology (Reily), the couple has served multiple causes that support environmental and historic preservation, including the LSU Rural Life Museum, BREC’s Bluebonnet Swamp, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the national Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
    As an LSU architecture professor, Kennedy, now retired, shared his passion for service by teaching service-learning classes in which his students, many from South Louisiana, were re-introduced to the communities they grew up in but too easily took for granted. For one community-based initiative, his architecture students worked with volunteers in New Orleans as they
    rehabilitated homes that had fallen into disrepair. The students learned that rehabilitation did not necessarily mean gentrification and displacement of traditional populations, but could also be a fundamental means to ensure the sustainability and continuity of historic communities.

    Experiential education is a common theme in the initiatives Kennedy and Reily support. Their recent challenge gift to CCELL is a testament to their belief in community service and hands-on learning. CCELL facilitates LSU service-learning classes, in which students complete service projects that reinforce course learning goals and introduce them to important social issues. More than 3,500 LSU students participate each year in service-learning projects that range from tutoring in public schools to coastal restoration to fundraising for nonprofit organizations.

    “The endowment is a testament to the fact that CCELL is making a huge contribution, not only to the education of LSU students, but to Louisiana,” Kennedy explained. “It will be an indication that CCELL is going to be here a long time—contributing to the university’s mission and living it out in ways that are relevant and absolutely critical to the mission of a major land grant university.”


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